Gophers offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca departing for Penn State

Under Ciarrocca, Minnesota ranked No. 22 in scoring offense in 2019.

Wide receiver Seth Green hypes the team up before the start of the game at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 30.

Parker Johnson

Wide receiver Seth Green hypes the team up before the start of the game at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 30.

Nick Jungheim

After another successful season in Minneapolis, offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca has accepted the vacant offensive coordinator position at Penn State.

Ciarrocca is leaving Minnesota to join the Nittany Lions as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, replacing former Penn State offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne who recently became head coach at Old Dominion. 

This is not the first time Ciarrocca’s name had been linked to an offensive coordinator vacancy at another program. Ciarrocca was also considered a top candidate for the offensive coordinator position at Texas. Last season, Ciarrocca nearly left for West Virginia but he decided to stay with head coach P.J. Fleck’s staff following a last-minute change of heart. 

Penn State represents a homecoming of sorts for Ciarrocca, a native of Lewisburry, Pennsylvania, a town located less than 100 miles southeast of Penn State’s campus. Before the Gophers’ 31-26 upset victory over No. 5 Penn State on Nov. 9, Ciarrocca said he grew up rooting for the Nittany Lions.

“When I was growing up, I’m pretty sure I had Nittany Lions pajamas,” Ciarrocca said. “I got to go to one or two games growing up, loved it. Most everybody where I grew up was a Penn State fan.”

Under Ciarrocca, the Gophers’ offense improved in the most important facet of the game: putting points on the board. In 2016, the season before Ciarrocca joined as a part of Fleck’s staff, Minnesota ranked No. 106 in FBS in scoring offense with 22.5 points per game. This year, the Gophers scored 34.3 points per game, jumping to a three-way tie for No. 22 in that category alongside Air Force and Penn State.

A number of players also set program records in 2019 under Ciarrocca. Quarterback Tanner Morgan set the Minnesota record for passing touchdowns in a season with 28 and passing yards with 2,975. Wide receivers Rashod Bateman and Tyler Johnson led the Big Ten with 1,170 and 1,140 receiving yards respectively. The duo became the first Gophers wide receivers to surpass 1,000 yards receiving in the same season and both took home first-team All-Big Ten honors.

It remains unknown about who will call the Gophers’ offensive plays in the Outback Bowl against Auburn on New Year’s Day.